Faux 'paw' therapy dog certifications causing problems

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 6:10pm

Therapy dogs create a unique healing solution for those seeking comfort. However, across the nation there is a growing concern about people abusing the system and using false identification cards.

There is no national standard to get an animal "therapy certified". The requirements will vary based on which state, and organization, is chosen. So here in East Texas, there is an extensive process through Therapets. KETK spoke with the Therapets President, Lynn McGinnis, who share their extensive training process. These steps include:

  • The dog, cat, or bird must be at least one year old
  • Need to complete obedience training
  • Dogs have to receive their CGC
  • Animals must attend skills classes through Therapets
  • Need to pass a vet screening
  • Animals need to pass temperament test

If animals make it through these initial steps, they enter into a probationary period for four to six months. Once these steps are completed, the animals are considered an official Therapet. If you would live more information on this process, visit www.therapet.org.

However, when people go around the system, it creates additional problems for those who actually need the animal in social settings. The dogs, cats or birds, are given special treatment, and allowed in public spaces where many pets are not welcome. McGinnis said, "We don't want there ever to be an incident. So that's why we rigorously train these animals and stress obedience for the certification process".

There are many forms of fake certification. Phony tags are for sale all over the internet, where you can find identification cards and even vests. There are also online documents, like a U.S. registry, that appears to register animals through the federal government. Of course, it's a fraud.

The interesting twist is whether or not the ID card is legitimate, it is still illegal in the United States for anyone to ask for the animal's identification. This is solidified under the "Americans with Disabilities Act".

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